I love going to Fry's to check out whatever deep discount sale they have going on. The only thing I don't like is that they usually achieve those prices through the use of mail-in rebates (MIRs). For example, they had a sale going where you could get a 160GB Hitachi hard drive for $30. The price at the register was $90, and I received a form for a $60 MIR. I have had success with Fry's rebates in the past, and I thought this was just too good of a deal to pass up. Six weeks later, I receive an e-mail from RebatesHQ that says my submission was invalid due to a missing sales receipt. I knew I had packed the receipt. My co-worker gave me the idea to call and double check. Well, finding the customer support number for this company was a serious chore. I did eventually find it (using this extraordinarily helpful list) and got through to their automated help center. I went through the menus, entered my confirmation number, and listened to the current status of my rebate. After the status was given, the automated attendant said "Press One to repeat this information, or hang-up to end this conversation...". Then there was a long pause. To my surprise, after waiting a moment I got a new option, "Press 2 to speak to a customer service representative." Woohoo! After speaking to the rep, I learned that the information on my rebate was simply incorrectly entered. He saw that they did have my receipt and it was properly dated. I should get my rebate check in the next couple of weeks. Success!
My buddy at work tipped me off to how these rebates work. Essentially, a rebate clearing house like RebatesHQ guarantees Hitachi that no more than X% of qualifying customers will actually turn in a valid rebate. This percentage is very low, less than 60%. Hitachi then issues a payment for that percentage to the clearing house. If the clearing house receives less than the estimated number of rebates, they make a profit. If they receive more, they take a loss. Given that scenario, the rebate clearing house makes it as difficult as possible to properly submit your rebate information. They have you send your rebate form to some little served post office in BFE. Then, they occassionally "lose" parts of your submission and send you a post card asking for you to resubmit, knowing full well that you've probably thrown away any copies you may have kept of your purchase receipt. They had their phone numbers, and make it really difficult to reach them. It took me a bit of research to find the number for RebatesHQ, and once I did, the service rep was helpful, but there were times that I felt like just giving up. He was breathing heavy into the phone, and asking the same questions multiple times. My perserverance paid off though, and I'm looking forward to getting that check in the mail.
If you ever buy something with a MIR, make sure to send it in. And if it looks like you may have forgotten something, track down the clearing house and give them a call. Chances are, you can clear it up over the phone and get your rebate in short order. I have to give RebatesHQ credit here. In the end, they were helpful, and their online and telephone status information is nice. I'll probably continue buying equipment with MIRs, but I'll only do so when no better option is available.